Potential for Bias in the Context of Neuroethics
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Neuroscience research, like all science, is vulnerable to the influence of extraneous values in the practice of research, whether in research design or the selection, analysis and interpretation of data. This is particularly problematic for research into the biological mechanisms that underlie behavior, and especially the neurobiological underpinnings of moral development and ethical reasoning, decision-making and behavior, and the other elements of what is often called the neuroscience of ethics. The problem arises because neuroscientists, like most everyone, bring to their work assumptions, preconceptions and values and other sources of potentially inappropriate bias of which they may be unaware. It is important that the training of neuroscientists, and research practice itself, include open and in-depth discussion and examination of the assumptions that underlie research. Further, policy makers, journalists, and the general public, that is, the consumers of neuroscience research findings (and by extension, neurotechnologies) should be made aware of the limitations as well as the strengths of the science, the evolving nature of scientific understanding, and the often invisible values inherent in science.
KeywordsBias in research Neurobiology of ethics Neuroethics Neuroscience Public policy Research practice Responsible conduct of research RCR Teaching neuroethics Teaching neuroscience
I would like to thank my colleagues Michael Kalichman, Dena Plemmons, Elizabeth Cervantes and Dave Kukla for their valued input and perspective.
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